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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

236                            THE GAY GENIUS

"Indeed!" said Su Tungpo. "I'm afraid he is on the wrong track,
exactly because he has only a few remaining years to live. I want to
tell you a story which you can repeat to your father-in-law. Will you
do that?"

"Why, of course," the young man replied.

"There was a certain old man," began Su Tungpo, "who had neve^
taken up Buddhist meditations. But he lived in accordance with true
Buddhist principles and took life and death very philosophically. One
day he called all his children and relatives together and gave them a
big wine dinner. After the dinner was over, he told his family: 'Now
I am going to depart from this life/ Thereupon, he gathered up his
gown and sat in an erect posture and looked as though he was ready
to remain in this position until he gave up the ghost. His sons were
frightened, and cried to him: 'Father! Are you going to say good-bye
to us? Won't you leave some parting advice?' The old man replied: T
did not intend to give you any advice, but since you ask for it, I wftr
say only this: Get up at the fifth watch/ His sons could not under-
stand and asked him for an explanation. 'Only at the fifth watch,' said
the old man, 'can one attend to one's own business. As soon as the sun
rises, it is not possible to do it/ His sons were still more puzzled, and
said: 'Since our family is well-to-do, why should we get up so early?
Besides, the family business is the same as one's own business. What
is the difference?* 'No/ said the old man, 'what I mean by one's own
business is that which you can take with you when you depart from
this world. You see, I have built up this fortune and now I am about,
to depart. What can I take with me when I go ?' His sons then undqp
stood.

"Now," continued Su Tungpo, "your father-in-law thinks he has
only a few remaining years to live and wants to enjoy them. Will you
two take a message for me to him? Only say that I ask him to attend
to his own business. Rather than dissipate his waning strength with
wine and women, he had better think of what he is going to take with
him at the journey's end."

About his revered friend Fan Chen, Tungpo said after Fan's death:
"Chingjen never liked Buddhism, but in his old age he lived a simple,
quiet life with few material desires and not a care on his mind. He
really was the kind to make a good Buddhist, yet he was againsff
Buddhism to the end of his days. In my opinion, he was a Buddhist
without knowing it. Such a man may smash the idols and abuse the
monks and still go up to Western Heaven."

Su Tungpo was now at the height of his fame. He was honoured
by all scholars and friends, and he had a high official position. He had,
more than any of his friends, suffered for his opinions, and was greatly